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Saturday, 27 November 2010

The UK's shameful record on refugee resettlement

Refugee camp for Rwandans located in what is n...Image via Wikipedia
Source: Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

Earlier this week the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg stated that Europe should accept more refugees  in need of safe resettlement.

Nine out of ten refugees stranded 

The UNHCR estimates that annual resettlement needs amount to some 800,000 refugees.   European Governments between them have offered to accommodate only 80, 000 annually. This leaves 90% of the world’s 800,000 refugees stranded in uncertain circumstances with no prospect of resettlement for 10 years.

The UK – a poor track record

The UK deals with refugee resettlement primarily through  its Gateway Protection Programme. In summary under this programme the UNHCR refers cases to the UK Border Agency who then go on to asses these cases individually.

Cases are examined with a view to establishing whether those referred are refugees,  people at risk of human rights breaches and whether they are unable to sustain long-term security and have a lack of local integration in the country where they have initially sought refuge.

The UK accepts only 2% of the total.  Its current resettlement quota for the year is a mere 750.  Figures are not presently available to verify whether was met last year. Past figures however rather embarrassingly show that the UK has consistently resettled fewer refugees that its quota would allow for. The figures are: 150 (2004), 70 (2005), 355 (2006), 465 (2007), 640 (2008)

A worldwide comparison

The Commissioner highlights the disparity between the numbers of refugees received by America and Europe.  Europe accommodates only 14% of the world’s refugees. In contrast the USA accommodates seven times more refugees than European countries and some African states host more refugees than all of Europe put together. In fact  80% of the world’s refugees are today living in developing countries.

The future

The Commission recently proposed the establishment of a Joint EU Resettlement Programme, in which member states would receive financial assistance for resettling refugees. Until something this is introduced the Commissioner is asking European states to support the UNHCR in overcoming the crisis facing refugees by increasing their annual quotas. With the Coalition attempting to cultivate an  image for its immigration policy as one  tough on control but human rights friendly in spirit, one might hope for an improvement in the UK in this thoroughly unsatisfactory state of affairs.
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